I hope that everyone had a good start to November, which started with All Saints Day or Dia de los Muertos for those who have Mexican roots or have seen The Book of Life. It’s Nanowrimo season, but I’m taking a long story break due to having worked on a ten thousand word short story for an anthology. I’ll be plotting out works this month and writing on themes, so that when winter break rolls around I can hit the ground running by writing.
Last year, in August, I saw an article about the Rock A Fire Animatronics, a robot band that used to perform in Chuck E Cheese franchises but had moved on to perform as a solo act in Orlando. Then I confused the article with some posts I had seen on a place called “Freddy's Pizzeria”, and googled Five Nights at Freddy's. That was stupid.
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Five Nights At Freddy’s is a game that features a fictional pizzeria, though a lot of people have claimed that it reminds them of Chuck E. Cheese. It's also a horror game where you play a security guard trapped in a room, having to keep the doors closed against walking, haunted animatronics, but you probably know all this, since it’s become quite the online phenomenon. I made the mistake of watching the trailer at night, and reading up on the gameplay. I was scared of the dark for several months, up until I saw Markiplier playing the game and was able to laugh at his frustration.
Five Nights has since become a multi-game franchise that has sparked a rather controversial and excited fanbase, with the creator Scott Cawthon having released four in total plus a Halloween edition of the fourth game, and even some talk about it becoming a movie. Each succeeding game seemed to add a bit more to the story, making the animatronics seem more tragic than monstrous while showing the utmost cruelty and kindness of human beings. Then Game Four came out, which undid the satisfaction that the viewers got from the third game, and left us with a few ambiguous situations and even more unanswered questions, turning what had seemed like an ostensible “happy” ending into a tragic beginning.
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This past Fall 2015, Scott has revealed that he knows all the answers to the questions he has kept under wraps, that he plans to make no more games in that original storyline, and that his latest game will be a different story entirely. In addition, he showed a locked box that supposedly held the answers to the game, and told us he wasn’t going to open it. This felt like a huge middle finger to the fans, and to the people like me who weren’t diehard fans but were nonetheless lured in like innocent insects to a sticky mosquito trap.
A Five Nights at Freddy’s clone ended, or rather disappeared, in a similar fashion. Five Nights at Treasure Island took the same game mechanic setup and transplanted it to the Bahamas, at the abandoned Disney World resort “Treasure Island”, complete with haunted Mickey, Donald, and Goofy “suits” plus several unknown figures. After two demos, one of which merged several Disney Creepypastas, the game creator and his successors decided to pull the plug on the project. Five Nights at Treasure Island is on indefinite hiatus, with none of their questions answered either.
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Why do I find these actions frustrating? Because the games triggered in me a fear of the dark, but their story helped to alleviate it; I was able to focus on the backstory that fueled the tragedies that had occurred before and during the games. We got the Purple Man, a monstrous human whose true features we never saw, and we saw the fate that befell him when karma caught up to him. Then we see another heinous crime occur, without his involvement on screen, and the viewer becomes unsatisfied. We never see what happens to that perpetrator, and we can’t even place the event on a definitive timeline. Five Nights at Treasure Island is just as bad because while we may have some opinions on how Disney’s business executives skirt across lines and ethical boundaries, the supernatural mystery is quite alluring, more so that if you know that Treasure Island is real, albeit not haunted.
I would call these endings “cliffhangers” precisely because they leave the sensation of what the original cliffhanger, as Charles Dickens put it, must have felt like to the readers either listening to an epic saga, but at least cliffhangers are typically resolved. Instead we have loose threads to two different stories that provoke obsessions, with the creators deliberately withholding the answers. It’s one thing if the creators plan to create a huge reveal in the story, the way Alex Hirsch has done with multiple plotlines in his show Gravity Falls or J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, but it’s quite another if he or she plans to never tell that tale. The reader deserves some common courtesy when the creator promises to add more to the story with each installment.
If you’re going to write a story with multiple parts, with each succeeding part building on the previous one, you have to promise to answer most of the questions that you set out in a long work. Not answering these questions will lead to frustrated readers, and they will let you know if you missed a spot. Deliberately and openly withholding the stories will provoke anger from the fans, since they have devoted their time to reading. Speaking as a reader and a writer who has been on both sides of the equation, with stories that have made people ask questions and I’ve frustrated them by not answering them, I understand that answering the big questions is the important part. Writers and readers exchange words, and those words must have a current of common courtesy. I know that if I make that mistake, my lovely beta readers will let me know and express their frustration openly.
On that note, I am going to resume my storytelling break and return to detailing themes for the month, and story plotting. For those doing Nanowrimo, good luck and I hope that you meet your 50,000 word goal!